Drug-cheating cyclist Lance Armstrong has invited New Zealanders to join him on a fun bike ride through the streets of Auckland this morning.

Armstrong encouraged people on Twitter to meet him at Mechanics Bay at 6am today to do a "cruisy waterfront loop around Tamaki Drive and Cliff Road".

The 45-year-old American arrived in New Zealand on Sunday to film a cautionary tale for Lion Breweries.

The brewery giant, which bottles beers such as Steinlager, confirmed yesterday it had brought Lance Armstrong to the country - but wouldn't say why.


However, an email sent to Lion staff - and seen by the Herald - said Armstrong was in New Zealand for a film shoot.

"We are using Lance to tell a cautionary tale called 'The Consequence' which depicts how much you stand to lose when you pursue success at all costs. We wanted to highlight that actions have consequences and we couldn't think of anyone better to demonstrate that than Lance," the email said.

The cyclist was stripped of seven Tour de France cycling titles and received a life ban after confessing to benefiting from a sophisticated covert doping programme.

As well as tarnishing his reputation, the scandal cost Armstrong tens of millions of dollars in legal wrangling and loss of sponsor support.

Armstrong, who was out riding with Kiwi cyclists in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges yesterday, invited others to join him doing the same ride on the edge of the city on Monday and Tuesday morning.

Herald reporter Phil Taylor, who studied doping in sport on a fellowship to Cambridge University, said he was disappointed to read that New Zealand's 12-time Ironman Cameron Brown had taken his son, a budding athlete, to meet Armstrong on Sunday.

Taylor, who has written extensively on Armstrong's fall from grace, writes in today's sports section; "Brown has earned respect through his demeanour as well as a long career as one of the best Ironman athletes in the world. But I couldn't help but wonder what he said to his son. 'Here's a man who lied, cheated and trampled over people to reach the top. Isn't he cool'?

"Brown rightly notes that you have to forgive in the end. But history's lessons should not be forgotten. And nor should it be forgotten that Armstrong's career represents what New Zealand's top cyclists, our Olympians, were and perhaps are up against."

Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Illustration / Rod Emmerson

Brown yesterday shut down his public support for Armstrong after being trolled on social media.

Drugfree Sport NZ chief operational officer Scott Tibbutt said they were not impressed with Armstrong's arrival in the country and would not be encouraging New Zealanders to cycle with him. Tibbutt said Armstrong represents everything they stand against. He explained that Drugfree Sport NZ's sole purpose is to protect the right of clean athletes.

"You've got something that's undercutting the value of sport by cheating, lying, covering up and bullying. It's not a good look.

"It's not what Kiwis stand for.

"But at the end of the day he's free to travel."

Otago University marketing associate professor Robert Aitken said Armstrong would be an interesting choice for one of Lion's campaigns.

"It might be a new career for him as an inspirational or motivational speaker but it is a very strange move," Aitken said.

"But they're very calculated, alcohol companies, and they must see some value - there has to be a genuine belief that he can bring something to the brand that isn't already there."

Aitken said it was likely to be a left-field campaign or targeting athletes or lower-alcohol drinkers, saying Armstrong was already creating a media stir in the country.

Meanwhile former New Zealand cyclist Stephen Swart who was one of the first to implicate Armstrong of drug allegations said he had been invited by text through a third party to meet Armstrong for a drink while he was in New Zealand.

While Swart didn't rule out a catch-up, he took a dim view of the manner of the approach and wondered why Armstrong hadn't simply rung him himself.